17 Year-Old Girl Wins A Hackathon And Also The Internet And Battle of The Sexes Too

Larry Summers, who served as Former President Clinton’s Secretary of Treasury, President Obama’s Director of the White House United States National Economic Council, and Harvard’s president, stirred up the pretty big 2005 debate about women’s representation in the science and math fields. Essentially, Summers concluded that there is “relatively clear evidence” of an innate difference between men and women, and that men will always dominate the technological fields due to… nature, I guess. Because Mother Nature doesn’t want women dabbling in engineering or computers because there are sandwiches to be made, or whatever. This public announcement was huge. People freaked out and studies were done, and things were proven and disproven, but for some reason, the debate still exists. Is there really an innate difference between men and women in technology?

Last weekend, 17-year-old Jennie Lamere won a Hackathon – a TVnext Hack event in Boston held for hackers, businessmen and computer techies who compete with each other for the grand prize: $2,500. Jennie, the only young woman competing, won by inventing Twivo, an awesome hack that allows you to check your Twitter before you’ve had the chance to catch up on your favorite T.V. shows and NOT totally have the episodes spoiled by your Twitter feed. Let’s say you’re like me and jumped on the Game of Thrones boat two years too late and you’re checking your Twitter one day, only to find out what happened in the second season finale. All I would have had to do was enter “Game of Thrones” and Jennie’s Twivo would have blocked every single mention on my feed. Twivo is like my knight in shining armor that protects me from spoilers. And did I already mention my knight is a girl?

Yeah. Jennie Lamere was the only female in this competition, and also the only minor. So, going back to what Larry Summers said about women’s suffering interest in sciences: I call BS. I think a lot of women out there are totally capable, if not very talented in the science and math fields. Is it a matter of interest? Lack of representation?  Maybe.

According to evolver.fm, “The internet, of course, is rife with opinion about What Has To Happen in order for more girls to get into programming, for more women to speak at tech conferences, and for how to make guys not be jerks to them when they do enter these fields or show up at these conferences.”

I think it’s intimidating for a lot of young girls to pursue a field that has been so classically dominated by really competitive men, probably with egos. A hacker shouldn’t be identified as some young genius male plotting a way to overthrow Facebook in his dorm room. We need to re-identify and deconstruct this stereotype, and not just in the hacker world, but in every “nerdy,” tech, science and math field that women supposedly just aren’t “naturals” in. Because we are. It’s a fact, duh.

Featured image via The Galleon

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001293322897 Karol Jo Brennan

    I’m seemingly rare in my field too. I’m a web designer, however, I specialize in coding, not design. I’m OBSESSED with programming (not just for the web, I wanted to get into software development for quite some time too). I’m the only female in my department that knows a lot about code and actually enjoys it. So I don’t think it’s really that we don’t step up and talk about it – I just think we’re a rare breed. I have yet to meet another woman who shares my interest in programming and development.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1799700518 Randy Wong

    I don’t believe women are incapable of doing techie stuff, but for some reason, they *believe* they cannot or shouldn’t … probably the combination of the two. I have one friend who is totally awesome in the tech world. She has true passion and love for all techie things, and she excels at it. On the flip side, I’ve heard a lot of women say that they just cannot do math … some joke about it being a recessive gene that gets passed along the generations. Perhaps there is an intimidation thing, but you know what? All I know is the guys I hang with have no problem with women who can program, who are science geeks, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001327759670 Callie Leone

    It’s because from a young age, women feel unwelcome in these fields. Sure, perhaps educators and been forced to parrot that women can be engineers, mathematicians, and hackers, but not on a level that’s competitive to man.
    Go back to high school. There were like five guys that were trumpeted as geniuses, right? Everyone thought they would go Ivy League and cure cancer because they were talented. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that by itself. But considering both sexes have the same intellectual capabilities. How many girls in your high school were heralded as geniuses? Any? And if they were compared to those guys (lawd forbid) who do you think the majority would side with as being more knowledgeable? And why is that group really considered more intelligent? Because they have the skills, or because they have several hundred years of male-dominated institutions and reinforced stereotypes backing them up? While the popular opinions of high schoolers may not matter, the point is that this phenomenon extends beyond that. Educators are more willing to give opportunities in the sciences or math to boys because there is an often unconscious inclination to believe they are better suited. There is not enough support for REAL women to get into REAL fields. Not just the Type A personalities who demonstrate classic talent in organization in math, but the weird chicks who are intelligent, inspired, and less unconventional. Society exiles them as the witches, when in reality, provided with the same opportunities, they would provide a new insight into many academic communities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1438560079 Amy Powless

    This is a great article! I love how Hellogiggles encourages young girls and women to strive above stereotypes. I’m about to graduate with a B.S. in Biological Engineering. Aside from people not knowing what the heck that is exactly, people are extremely shocked when I tell them that is my degree. I get a lot of comments that they “couldn’t even imagine going into engineering” and they “are terrible at math”. This usually comes from college females I speak to. I also notice that when a guy in my department mentions that they are in engineering, to the same audience, that fact is immediately accepted. It’s like being a women makes the field more difficult. I struggle nearly everyday with intimidation that maybe just maybe I’m not smart enough to be in this field. Then I just remember “Well, hey! I’ve made it the past five years in engineering!” I can do anything with that fact. I’ve made it and overcome the stereotype that women aren’t as smart as men. I think a lot of young ladies lose their inspiration and encouragement when everyone is telling them that math, science, and engineering are too challenging of fields to go into. This happens at a young age. Girls go from aspiring to be doctors, vets, and scientist interested in space and etc. to wanting to be a stay at home mom, fashionistas, and etc. (sorry couldn’t come up with better examples). I’m not saying being a mother or fashion designer are bad to aspire too but where did the interest in math and science go? What happen to shows like Bill Nye that inspired kids to do experiments and explore. AND where are the shows to inspire young girls! Hope is not completely lost. There is a doll coming out that involves designing and building so, hopefully that will help. But we are still a long way from the world considering the sexes equal intellectually. It’s a true shame but I challenge all women to encourage young girls to aspire to anything no matter the stereotype they may have to overcome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005540801234 Marie Marie

    Awesome post! Lets also remember Victoria Walker last year’s 11 year old who won AT& T’s Hackathon creating an app that stops drivers from texting :-)

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      That’s genius!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003582182014 Thomas Kelly

    I imagine peer pressure (even if subtle) is another barrier for young girls. It is even difficult for males with an interest and aptitude in the sciences to stand proud at a young age. They are generally seen as stepping outside of the norm already. So females with the same interest and aptitude must face far greater barriers. The kind that they may not even see. Or rather, that prevent them from seeing what is available. Their peer group’s shared interests look to be so far removed from these fields that they may not even occur to some female students as options. Thus, making it atypical for young women to be directed or introduced to these things.

    Unfortunately, as long as this is the case, success stories like Jennie Lamere’s can be claimed to be an outlier or regression to the mean (if I understand the term correctly). We are right to hold these exceptions high and shine a light on them as examples. But there needs to be a fundamental change in society before there is balance. I just don’t see it happening any time soon. On the up-side, what is considered the “geek” subculture is becoming more mainstream. And women are a larger part of that then they have ever been. Expressing interests in things that were unheard of for girls 10 to 20 years ago. If we look at this generationally, there is significant progress being made. One could point to computers and general high-end technology being available to every consumer, not just a select few.

    Even when I feel it still seems to be taking too long, I see Jennie Lamere as a terrific example, no matter the situation. And I am so very proud of my own daughter, soon to graduate college, as I see her plotting her own course. A balanced course that she continues to traverse, enjoying both the arts and sciences – along with a strong social conscience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002613609252 Shining Moon

    I’m a woman who went into the IT field in the late 80s and moved in to Cyber Security in 2000. I was always the only woman in the room at tech conferences until 2002 when there were 3 of us out of 55 people taking a hacking course. We spent every lunch together telling our stories and just being happy to connect to other women in our field. I am so happy to see a young woman win this event. May there be more!

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